Former executioner explains opposition of death penalty

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – The Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute has recently put up new fencing, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, this is in preparation for the upcoming executions in December.

Back in July, US Attorney General William Barr announced the decision to carry out death sentences in federal cases.

Five death row inmates housed in the Terre Haute facility will be executed, beginning on December 9.

As we near the start of these executions, the Sisters of Providence and the Terre Haute Death Penalty Resistance group invited a former executioner to relay his thoughts on the death penalty.

Jerry Givens was only 22 when he was asked to leave his job as a correctional officer and join the execution team for Virginia’s Department of Corrections.

“I said, well God if I’m in this position, please don’t allow me to take an innocent life,” he said. “Because if I take an innocent life then I’m just as guilty as the person I killed.”

Givens carried out 62 executions, and each one weighed on him.

When the guilt was too much, he leaned on his faith.

“God if I can ask you to forgive me for taking this life,” he explained. “Why can’t he ask you the same thing?”

He became a staunch advocate for death row inmates, and his faith based stance resonated with the Sisters.

“An eye for an eye is not how it should be. Our church now teaches, in fact, that capital punishment is inadmissible,” said Sister Barbara Battista. “There is never a reason, never a justification for government to take another life.”

There hasn’t been an execution in Terre Haute since 2003, and the sisters plan to make their voices heard when the executions begin on December 9.

“We will be peacefully nonviolently gathering in vigil,” explained Sister Barbara. “We will be doing a number of community events leading up to those days.”

For those who wish to speak with Givens and the Sisters, another conference will be held Tuesday evening at 6:30 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Terre Haute.

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